Winterize Your Motorcycle to Protect it From Cold Weather

man working on his motorcycle

For many, winter is over as soon as they get their first ride on their motorcycle. That first ride of the season is exciting, and feeling the speed and power of a well-maintained machine keeps riders coming back for more. With that being the case, it makes sense that caring for your bike feels like an investment into a lifelong hobby. So whether you’re new to the riding world or are a seasoned vet looking for some new tips on storing your motorcycle for the winter, take a moment to read the advice below. It won’t make winter end sooner, but it will help your bike be ready to go with minimal effort come spring.

Steps for proper motorcycle winterization

Winter can be hard on a motorcycle, even if it’s not out on the road. Taking proper steps when winterizing can extend the life of your bike and prevent the need for costly repairs that improperly stored motorcycles may face.

Drain the fuel

Modern gasoline contains ethanol. It’s an ingredient that helps cut back on pollution, but it doesn’t store well. Leaving gas in your tank or elsewhere in the fuel system can result in sticky, glue-like deposits that cause damage to fuel systems. Be thorough, emptying the carburetor and fuel filter and setting them aside to dry.

Another option is to add a fuel stabilizer to your fuel, running the engine to make sure the stabilizer gets through the entire system. This is also a good time to change your oil and check your fluid levels, like your antifreeze. Old, stagnant oil can become acidic and corrode your engine.

Your ultimate goal is to prevent the ethanol fuel from separating and leaving deposits in your engine. If these deposits get mixed into your fuel and run through your system in the spring, they can damage seals and other parts of your engine.

Winterize the spark plugs and rubber seals

Remove spark plugs and squirt engine oil into the cylinders, storing the wires in a safe place for the winter. Re-attach the spark plugs by hand-tightening, then rotate the engine a turn or two by hand to distribute the oil.

You can also use your oil squirting device to protect the exposed fork tubes and keep their rubber seals from drying out and cracking. First, put oil over the stationary tubes on the front forks. Then, get on the bike, engage the front brake and bounce up and down to work the front suspension. This will distribute the oil properly.

Preserve the battery

It’s best to give the battery a full charge before shutting it down for the winter, and then remove it from the motorcycle. Connect it to a “battery maintainer” and keep this setup in the basement or another part of your home where it won’t freeze.

Keep your tires round; store your bike on blocks

Tires should be in good condition when you’re looking to take your motorcycle back out on the road. If they sit for months on a floor, however, they’ll develop permanent flat patches that change how your tire contacts the road, creating dangerous driving conditions. Storing the motorcycle on blocks eliminates this problem—just make sure you secure the motorcycle to the blocks so that it can’t fall off.

Protection from wear and pests

Use a good quality leather treatment to condition and moisturize the leather to prevent it from becoming dry and cracked. Wipe down all metal on your bike with a light machine oil, and cover any openings, like the tailpipe. Small animals, especially mice, are known to seek warm areas like garages when it gets cold, often creating homes in vehicles. Covering the tailpipe with plastic will prevent them from being able to do so.

Monthly winter maintenance

Every month, take some time to rotate the wheels, work the brakes, turn the engine over by hand once or twice and open and close the gas cap and fuel petcocks. Why? Because inactivity is bad for a bike. Machines are meant to move, so it’s wise to keep them moving occasionally, even when they’re not getting regular use. Just make sure not to actually run the engine. Turning it over by hand prevents doesn’t cause condensation; which is best to avoid in the winter.

Before your season opening ride

Before taking your motorcycle on that first official spring ride, check the following: oil levels, tire pressure (cold weather has a big effect your tires) and the operation of front and rear brakes, especially if they’re hydraulic. Before you start the engine, make sure the clutch isn’t stuck. Then, start it up and go ride. Be gentle for the first few miles as the brakes may have slight rust on them that will need to be worn off before the motorcycle will stop properly.